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Dog Bite Liability in Connecticut: The Growing Focus on Pit Bulls

Dog bite liability is a concern in Connecticut for more than the mail person. Anyone can be the victim of a dog bite and too often dog bite victims are small children. A dog bite can quickly result in a trip to the emergency room, and a serious dog bite can result in life-threatening injuries. In recent years certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, have been identified as being more dangerous than other breeds, and the idea is now leading to more legal scrutiny regarding the owners of such breeds. The highest court in Maryland, the Maryland Court of Appeals, recently ruled that pit bulls are more dangerous than other breeds, and while the court’s decision does not directly affect the law in Connecticut, the ruling may influence the development of dog bite liability in our state.

Particular Focus on Pit Bulls

The Maryland Court of Appeals decision identifies pit bulls as “inherently dangerous” dogs, and the effect of the label means that owners of pit bulls and landlords of tenants who own pit bulls are automatically liable for injuries caused by the pets they own or they allow to reside on their property. The term “pit bull” references at least three different breeds of dogs including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. However, some animal and animal law experts argue that the term pit bull does not refer to a specific registered breed but a set of characteristics that many dogs may feature. The issue may make it difficult to factually find that a certain dog is a purebred pit bull therefore subject to the new law.

The case the decision is based on is a dog bite case brought by the parents of a 10-year-old boy who was mauled by a pit bull against the landlord of the dog owner. The landlord allowed a tenant to keep a pit bull on her property, and when meaningful recovery for the boy could not be obtained from the owner, the parents sued the landlord. In Connecticut, a landlord can also be held liable for an injury caused by a tenant’s dog; however, the law is not as strict.

The Law in Connecticut

In Connecticut, the owner or keeper of a dog is automatically liable for an injury to a person or property the dog causes. However, the owner or keeper of the dog may not be liable if the injured person was tormenting or abusing the dog or if the injured person was attempting to commit an injurious act on the owner’s property. Petting a dog in a normal manner is not considered tormenting, and the actions of anyone injured under the age of seven are presumed to have not been tormenting the dog or committing an injurious act towards the owner. The presumption can be proven otherwise.

A non-owner can be held liable in Connecticut if the person is providing care to the dog, such as feeding, watering and providing shelter to the pet. A landlord can also be held liable for injury caused by a tenant’s dog if the landlord knew or should have know that the dog was vicious or so dangerous as to likely cause injury and if the injury occurred on the landlord’s premises.

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal rights.

Verdicts & Settlements

36-year-old laborer for landscaping company fractured wrist when fellow employee hit him with truck. Claimant received in excess of $30,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for total disability and medical expenses and settled with automobile insurance company for fellow employee for $95,000.

1989 workers’ compensation claim settled for $125,000. Claimant originally sustained a low back injury when she slipped and fell at local grocery store resulting in low back surgery in 1989. Several years later, claimant exacerbated her low back injury. Claim was reopened and settled with carrier for $125,000 in 2006.

47-year-old deli clerk sustained low back injuries at work for local supermarket. Carrier originally denied claim on the grounds that the injury was pre-existing. After formal workers’ compensation hearing carrier accepted claim and paid all total disability benefits and medical expenses in excess of $100,000. Case then settled for an additional $100,000 after injured person received a permanent disability rating.

34-year-old male roofer sustained multiple injuries to his shoulder, neck, back and hip when he fell from roof during work. Claimant was provided workers’ compensation benefits in excess of $100,000 and settled remaining claims for an additional $55,000.

40-year-old male working for cleaning company sustained neck and low back injuries when he fell on defective staircase while cleaning local museum. Claimant recovered over $95,000 in workers’ compensation benefits and resolved claim against museum for $85,000.

26-year-old laborer sustained fractured foot when a cast iron pipe was dropped on his foot. Employer and workers’ compensation carrier denied claim on basis that injured worker was an independent contractor. After a series of informal and formal workers’ compensation hearings, carrier conceded that claimant was an employee and settled case for $85,000.

24-year-old waitress sustained back injury while working at Outback Steak House. Workers’ compensation insurance company initially denied the claim. After a series of informal hearings, carrier accepted claim paying medical expenses and total disability benefits. In addition to those benefits paid, claim settled for an additional $75,000.

Delivery truck driver sustained right wrist fracture in rear-end motor vehicle accident while in the course of his employment. Claimant recovered in excess of $40,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and total disability benefits. Claimant settled case against at-fault driver for $105,000.

22-year-old male working as stocking clerk at “big box” retailer sustained herniated disc in low back. Workers’ compensation carrier refused to accept the claim. After formal workers’ compensation, hearing commissioner ordered carrier to pay over $35,000 in past total disability benefits and pay for surgery and all related medical expenses. Case settled for an additional $35,000 for a total recovery in excess of $100,000.

Rear-end collision on entrance ramp to Merritt Parkway resulting in 49-year-old woman sustaining mid-back injury. Case settled at mediation after filing suit for $300,000.

28-year-old passenger sustained multiple herniated discs in automobile accident in New York state. New York no-fault carrier paid for extended period of disability from work and medical expenses, including expenses for surgery. Case settled against driver of vehicle for $300,000 policy limits shortly after filing suit.

54-year-old man sustains shoulder injury when hit from behind by uninsured motorist on New Jersey Turnpike. Case settled for $135,000 prior to trial.

CT Transit bus driver sustained torn meniscus in collision with another vehicle. Claims made against at-fault driver, workers’ compensation carrier and client’s underinsured motorist policy. All claims settle for a recovery in excess of $100,000.

68-year-old woman sustained neck and back injuries in rear-end collision and required extended course physical therapy, but was not a surgical candidate. Case settled for $100,000 prior to filing suit.

34-year-old woman sustained concussion and neck and back injuries in hit-and-run accident on a New York highway. Claimant settled uninsured motorist claim for her $100,000 policy limits.

80-year-old woman sustained right foot fracture when her foot was run over in a parking lot. Case settled for at-fault driver’s policy limit of $100,000 prior to filing suit.

38-year-old nanny sustained right femur fracture when she fell down defective stairs in home of her employer’s neighbor. All medical expenses and lost wages reimbursed and case settled for an additional $150,000.

Claim against landlord for defective staircase in multi-family rental house. Claimant sustained a right femur fracture. Case settled for $125,000 prior to filing suit.

$95,000 judgment obtained against bar and nightclub for assault by one of its patrons against another patron.

47-year-old woman sustained a broken left wrist when she fell from porch stairs at house she was renting. Case settled for $95,000 shortly before trial.

26-year-old male bitten on leg by German shepherd. Claim against dog owner settled for $65,000 plus payment of all medical expenses.